I’m honored to have my friend Robert Cheeke as a guest today.
He’s written an informative post on vegan bodybuilding and has even sent a list of High Protein Vegan Foods.
Robert Cheeke is pretty much the antithesis of what one thinks of when one hears the word “vegan.” He definitely helps squash the stereotype that vegans are scrawny and sickly and protein-deficient. Let me introduce you to Robert:
Don’t mess with vegans!
And now I’m going to give the blog over to Robert Cheeke, the world’s most-recognized vegan bodybuilder and author of Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness – The Complete Guide to Building Your Body on a Plant-Based Diet. Below, Robert’s guest post:
Building Muscle on a Plant-Based Diet for Any Sports Interest
It might not be common knowledge. But many vegan and vegetarian athletes consume adequate, quality protein on a plant-based diet and thrive with high levels of health and fitness.
Building muscle on a vegan diet should not be considered a challenge, an oxymoron or an improbable task deemed for failure. Like anything else in nutrition, getting enough protein in your diet comes down to the basics, and common sense.
- Eat frequently
- eat quality whole foods
- consume an adequate quantity to elicit the kind of muscle gains you’re looking to experience
If your goal is to build muscle, it must be understood how muscle grows in the first place. You can’t expect to pack on muscle without understanding how the process works: For starters, you have a basic minimum caloric need just to maintain your weight, muscle and health. This is determined based on your age, size, weight and gender, and primarily based around how many calories you’re expending (burning) each day.
You burn calories in everything you do — from sleeping to walking to exercising. And the more intense the activity, the more calories you burn. Due to the nature of physical activity, athletes burn far more calories than non-athletes. So they require more calories through the consumption of food than their non-athlete counterparts. We know we need to eat well and eat often. But what we eat — and what we choose not to eat — are also important factors. It’s pretty common for an athlete to require 0.8 – 1.2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight to maintain muscle.
To build muscle often requires the consumption of 1.2 – 2.0 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. It may seem like a lot. But thousands of bodybuilders and athletes — who dedicate their personal or professional lives to building muscle — have found that this system is effective. It’s just the way the body works. It is a system which supports any sports interest from tennis to running to lifting weights. We break the body down through exercise and need to build it back up through sound and adequate nutrition.
You’re probably not used to consuming this volume of food. But it’s also one of the main reasons why “vegetarians” as a group get the reputation for being underweight. It’s not a baseless stereotype and it’s something that I work hard to eradicate through my Vegan Bodybuilding lifestyle.
Of course, it’s not just consuming a lot of food that is important. It’s also an exercise program that supports the food intake. Muscle grows as a result of the micro-tears that happen within a muscle following resistance training, usually weight training. Lifting weights or putting your body under physical stress in other ways (such as manual labor or bodyweight exercises) causes the muscle fibers to tear.
The food you eat, supplements you take, and ensuing rest you get all help in the recovery process that builds you back up bigger and stronger. Without exercise, you’re likely to gain fat eating a higher than usual calorie diet. That’s because the caloric consumption will greatly outweigh the caloric expenditure. When put together appropriately, they work harmoniously and create outstanding results of proper nourishment, fat-burning and muscle building. You can “have your cake” and burn it off too.
Consuming a gram to two grams of protein per pound of bodyweight isn’t an easy task. If it were, we’d all be walking around as muscle-bound citizens mimicking cartoon super heroes. Of course that image isn’t the goal of many, but recovering properly from any type of exercise is our primary goal.
It usually requires the consumption of six to eight meals a day with the right amount of protein, carbohydrates and fats throughout the day. Regardless of your sports interest, consuming smaller meals throughout the day keeps you constantly nourished and fueled for a run, a tennis match, cycling, swimming or anything else, providing important nutrition to start the day, throughout the day and pre and post-exercise.
The percentage breakdown for an active person may look like this:
- 50% of calories from carbohydrates
- 30% coming from protein
- 20% coming from fats.
The exact percentages may change daily based on diet. They also vary per individual based on factors such as your food preference, your rate of metabolism (your body’s ability to burn fat) and your specific athletic goals.
Though it’s not an easy task to consume enough food, it’s also not extremely challenging either, it just takes some dedication, focus, planning and preparation. I personally enjoy eating frequently throughout the day. My meals tend to be a bit smaller and I get to incorporate a lot of variety, flavors, themes, etc. because I am eating more frequently than just three or four meals a day.
In general fruits are the easiest to digest and are often best eaten alone rather than combined with other foods such as proteins. Consumed at the same kind could slow down digestion in many people so some people choose to eat fruit by itself and consume other carbohydrates with proteins in other meals throughout the day.
Sample Muscle Building Nutrition Programs from my Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness Book:
Active Women Sample Muscle-Building Nutrition Programs
Click for: Sample Meal Plans (for women)
These programs have been created for women and the quantities of food are based on approximately 125-150- pound active women. They are just samples and exact foods and quantities can be altered based on interest, size, age, and activity level. Keep in mind these are designed for active women who are burning more calories throughout the day due to exercise/sports than a sedentary person, and require extra nutrition (calories) to recover from exercise.
Men’s Sample Muscle-Building Nutrition Programs
These nutrition programs are for an average 170-pound male looking to maintain and build muscle, but the themes throughout are consistent for any gender, any size; just tailor your own programs to your individual caloric needs. These are simply examples and have not been approved by the FDA or other governing body. They are purely based on my experiences and observations as a competitive and champion vegan athlete over the past 15 years. Listed after these meal programs from my book are custom made meal programs for women based on general fitness, not bodybuilding per se.
Click for Sample Meal Plans (for men)
I’ve found that the more enthusiastic you are about supporting your active lifestyle with a sound nutritional program, and the more meaningful your reasons for doing so, the greater your success will be. That’s just the nature of enthusiasm. In general, the more you care about something, the harder you’ll work to achieve it. Exercising and eating well is a lifestyle decision that allows me to live, work and play as a vegan bodybuilder.
My career opportunities, interests, and long-term goals are all dependent on my ability to stay motivated. The harder I work, the more success I experience, and the more personal fulfillment I achieve.
What are YOUR unique reasons for wanting to build or maintain muscle? Why do you care about it, and what does it mean to you?
Click for Robert Cheeke’s tips: List of High-Protein Vegan Foods
Enjoy the Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness lifestyle and get the most out of it. All the best in your own journey to outstanding fulfillment and amazing results!
Author, Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness – The Complete Guide to Building Your Body on a Plant-Based Diet
Thank you so so much, Robert, for taking the time to write such an incredible guest post! 🙂
LOVED THIS! I think it’s amazing how you CAN certainly be extremely healthy and thrive on a vegan diet. Katie, you’re an example of this too – you’re absolutely beautiful. 🙂
I’m gonna go read more about it, actually.
Much love 😀
This is a great post! I actually just picked up Brendan Brazier’s Thrive book and am reading about endurance athletes and plant-based diets. I think you people are onto something! hahah Seriously though- I’m working on relying less on meat and getting back to my old veg ways.
So interesting, and broken down so clearly! Thank you!
Even though I’m not vegan, this is extremely interesting stuff!! I totally support the vegan lifestyle and think that getting the message out that you can not only be healthy, but also strong and fit on a vegan diet is awesome. Lots of helpful info here, thanks!! 🙂
This was awesome! I’m not even a vegan and I loved it!
Wow, he’s like the vegan Jay Robb! What a vegan catch. Too bad for me, I’m happily married 😉
Great guest post, Robert! You really know your stuff. I’m so impressed. Will definitely be checking out that book!
katie, this post is so informative! thank you~ i am going to send a lot of the people who ask me Qs about this your way. they will LOVE this post. have a great day!
great post and so informative too and fun. love the guest post!
Very informative, thank you! I am getting more active with biking, not bodybuilding necessarily- but this is very helpful. If I ever meet someone interested in doing this sort of thing, I now know about your book and can direct them to it!
Such a great, informative post. Love the fact that all of the opinions are unbiased and solely directed at thriving… Wonderful!
thanks robert! i’m not a bodybuilder, but i need to add more calories in my diet so i really enjoyed the sample menus. great guest post!
Terrific guest post!
Gabriela @ Fro-Yo Lover says
Wow – amazing guest post, Katie and Robert!
Thanks so much for sharing!
Have a wonderful Sunday 🙂
Awesome guest post! Thank you for *proving* (with pictures) that you can be vegan & have muscle 🙂
Run Sarah says
Great post! As a vegetarian trying to incorporate more protein in my diet, this is so helpful!
What a great face for the vegan movement! Really challenges that stereotype that we all have.
Thanks for showcasing Robert Cheeke, Katie. I am a vegan, but I’d never heard of him! I’m off to click on the link now to find out more. 🙂
yea ive heard about his story before and always found him inspiring. great post katie <3
Jessica Zara says
Absolutely amazing post ~ I couldn’t have asked for anything more!
I’m already vegan and have been for five years (veggie since I was ten, and am 24 now!) and I must admit that protein has always been a concern. I really need to watch my intake for muscle repair now that I’m up to running a 75 mile week and hoping to run a marathon later in the year. I’ve noticed that by including more vegan protein powders my injuries heal more quickly and I have so much more energy…hardly suprising given that without them my intake was less than 30g a day owing to soy allergies, possible celiac disease and IBS meaning that most traditional protein sources were out. Thank you Sun Warrior 😉
Again huge thanks for this post!
Pure2raw twins says
Great post! Thanks Robert for sharing your thoughts on protein and muscle building. I agree how much protein does vary on the person’s goals and fitness level.
ruby red says
What a cool post! It is awesome to see a bodybuilder passing around sound nutrition information that is approachable too!
Lauren @ Eat, Drink, and Be Hopeful says
I think this was a great post that more people need to read. We get so much protein from sources we don’t normally think of! Thanks for posting about this.
Katherine: What About Summer? says
I want to eat spinach like popeye and have muscles like the hulk! so hott!
Eco-Vegan Gal says
What a great post! Robert is so inspiring. I love the sample meal plans…and the pictures! ; )
Lily @ Lily's Health Pad says
Holy cow! 3000 calories to build muscle! That meal plan is intense! Lots of food in there…
Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) says
Oh my gosh, this post is so timely and awesome!!!
Katie, not sure if you still read my blog anymore, and Robert probably doesn’t 🙂 but I am entered to compete in my first bodybuilding show and I am a high raw vegan!!!!!!!
I am also gluten free, soy light, and don’t do well with protein powders…so have been sculpting my body on plants. And lots of them! And it’s been working great.
In fact about 3 weeks ago I did a massive post on Vegan Protein and Robert, I even linked to your website in my post and posted pictures of you with sources/linkbacks because I think you’re awesome!
Here’s the post
Thanks in advance if you read it, and if not, from one vegan bodybuilder to another…thanks for raising awareness that you don’t have to chug egg whites to bodybuild successfully!
Andrew Millist says
Hey, this was an interesting read, but I can’t help but challenge your theory on some level. For years I consumed the quantities of protein you’re talking about here and saw good results, however I’ve since taken to eating about 1 to 1.2 grams per kg (I’m an 82kg guy) and noticed no difference whatsoever to strength increases (and effectually, muscle). And this isn’t something I say on a whim either, I’ve tested this for the last 4 years and would challenge anyone to do the same. Protein is important, but I think it’s been over consumed. Need more proof? –> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4NyIttYcp3s
Yeah, he made a mistake on the measurements.
Very informative post, thanks for sharing 🙂
Thanks for this post!
I am always worried I don’t take enough protein, although I’m not vegan, so this was very informative 🙂
Allie (Protein Girl) says
You hauled my butt out of Lurkerville! Fabulous post. I want to steal Robert over to my site for a guest post about vegan protein!
Be Veg Go Green says
What a great post! I am loving it!!!
Jennifer - jcd says
Wow, great post! While I’m not interested in bodybuilding itself, this post is loaded with lots of great ideas and tips for active vegans. Thanks for sharing.
Mama Pea says
This is so helpful for me…thank you Katie and Robert! I can’t wait to stop leaving this comment so I can go check out those meal plans. Mama is gonna be ripped!
Dr. Jerome says
thank for your example as vegan athlete. Like you know, I am a vegan cyclist very competitive back in France after 6 years in Oregon. France has not yet a strong plant-based diet, but because of my knowledge as molecular biologist and fan on nutrition with couple training with vegan Al CHase Chef from Portland, I continue to expand my cycling muscle or at least to stay very fit with my fourthy.
thank Robert for your effort to publish your knowledge… I would love to buy your book soon I will visit the States again.
Thank you so much for this post! I am really inspired by this post and all that Robert is doing to correct some misconceptions about veganism.
I am vegan, 5’4″, 103 pounds, and I have to say I really have not really helped lift the stereotype of the under-nourished vegan, here in the midwest where the majority of people are overweight or obese. I do lift weights regularly, along with some cardio. I lift heavy weight (well, heavy for me!) at low reps to fatigue in order to build muscle mass, which was working quite well for a while. I lost quite a bit of weight, and now I think I am simply not eating enough calories to sustain my activity level. That would explain my fatigue and sudden plateau. I know it is normal to plateau at some point, but maybe if I ate more, I could probably start making strength gains again, which I really enjoy. I spent so much of my life cutting calories to stay “thin” (read: emaciated) that it is difficult to shift gears into eating large quantities of food. As for the balance of my diet, it is excellent, as is the quality of food I eat. Thank you for reminding me of something so obvious: if you expend more energy, you need to eat more to maintain it! Becoming vegan helped me see so clearly that we are made of food, and food is our fuel. So severe calorie restriction is a bad idea in any case.
KRISTEN'S RAW says
Love Cheeke. Thanks for posting this. Whoo hoo!
hey katie! just wanted to leave a comment about the chopsticks challenge! just used chopsticks to eat a slice of strawberry cake. delicious and fun!
shoot nice stuff bro.
Jessica (PB & Jess) says
I just won a signed copy of this book from VegNews and am super excited to look it over 🙂
And how long has your muscle friend been a vegan? One day? That piece of info is crucial. Because many of these bodybuilder have eaten animal protein food for years and then they turn vegans :/
Chocolate-Covered Katie says
I can tell you for a FACT that Robert has been a vegan for years. He even has his own website, veganbodybuilding.com, and a terrific book.
What sort of foods have really high protein content in them? I know that beans and lentils and nuts do but do you know of any more? Just sort of trying to get enough protein in my diet 😛
Chocolate-Covered Katie says
I think this post was meant for you! 🙂
GREAT post! Thank you for sharing this! I love it. Do you mind if I share it on my blog? I won’t do so without your permission of course and will refer to your blog. I am a physician who advocates a plant-based diet. A friend and I recently started a blog on plant-based diets as a resource for those who are interested in transitioning to a plant-based diet. We have lots of other plans too, but one step at a time. lmk and thanks again for the great post. Glad I found your blog…subscribing now! Jenn (www.theplantrx.com)
Chocolate-Covered Katie says
Thanks for the sweet comment :).
This was actually a guest post, written for me by my friend Robert Cheeke. So I don’t have the right to say you can re-post it on your blog. However, please feel free to link to it :). Happy holidays!
Totally Understand! Merry Christmas! Jenn (www.theplantrx.com)
Katie @wishandwhimsy says
This is such a wonderful article. It has answered several questions I’ve had regarding the breakdown of nutrients I need to be consuming while I’m strength training. Thanks to you and the guest poster for this one. I’ve bookmarked this page for quick referencing.
Been vegan for a few years now. You will never hear me complain about being able to eat all day long 😉 😛 Cant complain! Love the female meal plan for working out, gonna be another ripped vegan on the planet by summertime!
I’m not sure if anyone pointed out his above mistake in protein needs, but his statement of an athlete requiring “0.8 – 1.2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight to maintain muscle.” is incorrect. What I think he meant to say is that amount is a guideline for 0.8 – 1.2 of grams per kilogram of body weight which is (0.5 – 0.8 grams per pound).
Same thing on the “building muscle” statement. The proposed requirements would be 1.2-2.0 would be for 1.2-2.0 grams per kilogram of body weight and not pounds which is a huge difference. Example: if I weigh 125 lbs. and am building muscle the calculations would follow as:
1. Weight in pounds divided by 2.2 = weight in kg
2. Weight in kg x 0.8-1.8 gm/kg = protein gm.
56.82*1.5=85 grams of protein needed
Thank you, thank you for this post! I know full well it is absolutely possible to be strong and active and gain muscle on a vegan or vegetarian diet. That said, I have been struggling with this very goal of mine. Great information and a great source of encouragement!
Wow!! This is kind of awesome, I been wanting to lose fat and build muscle for ever, but i have thyroid issues and the 7th will be my first 2 year anniversary of a partial brain tumor removal, and my 2nd 2 yr anniversary of full brain tumor removal will be Oct. 18 of this year. I weigh 230 lbs and have found it really hard to lose weight. And despite my efforts still weigh to much about 80lbs to much, I know it will come off, but I may need to try a high protein diet to combat my sluggish thyroid and to lose lbs so this is great I just stumbled on this article thank Miss Katie. I will have to look hit get this book and decent blender my is about to go to blender heaven.
Thank you for posting this! I’m trying to gain muscle mass but everything I read tells me to eat something like 15 egg whites a day…. barf!
I love the sample meal plan for women but where can I get more like this? Does Cheeke (or anyone else, for that matter) have a book or site dedicated to vegan bodybuilding for women?
Chocolate Covered Katie says
Yes, check out his book called “Vegan Bodybuilding and Fitness.”
Being vegetarian I am always told that I can never gain muscle with my plant-based diet. I always get discouraged hearing that. But not anymore. thanks for sharing this post.